Bring on the summer, I’m sundress ready!

Janene is posing with her right hand on a low white wall with trees and bushes in the background. She is wearing her handmade sundress and sunglasses and smiling with head back

I had absolutely no plans whatsoever when I placed my order for this delightful Robert Kaufman cotton poplin fabric, which is usually a very bad mistake. Rash decisions with no end goal ultimately end up with more material languishing in stash mountain for a considerable amount of time. But I had to have it! I don’t generally like novelty prints but I think this can be classified more as graphic print or typographic print – very appropriate for a graphic designer anyways! And I absolutely love it!

Janene is leaning against a tree holding a piece of grass, wearing her handmade sundress

When it arrived I was in awe of its texture. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with cotton poplin before – the cottons I’ve worked with have been much smoother and crease a whole heap more. You can see the weave of the threads on closer inspection of this one and it’s got a marvellous matt quality to it.

Janene is posing straight on with both hands on hips wearing her handmade sundress and sunglasses

It feels very similar to some vintage batik fabric I used last year for a sheath/shift dress and I love how that one feels against my skin. So after much deliberation, I decided upon something much the same – fitted for sure but with all this roasty toasty weather we’ve been blessed with, I also liked the idea of baring my back and cutting away the shoulders to air a bit more skin!

Janene is posing with her back to a low level wall alongside the river with trees and bushes in the background, wearing handmade dress and sunglasses and smiling

But I had to get my skates on. Not only did I have a Minerva review deadline, there was an Insta hashtag challenge I was determined to join in with, too.

So typically, I decided to make things just a tad more difficult for myself by designing, self-drafting and sewing my own fitted sundress!

Janene is posing in her handmade dress and sunglasses with one hand on hip and the other in a mock salute

I traced my existing sloper template to include princess seams and a V-neckline, increasing the underarm curve slightly above the bust across the side front where it meets the centre front piece seam and the ‘strap’ that is graduated to the shoulder and meets a back extension to form a buttoned halter-neck.

I created a facing for the whole of the top half to the waist. I did consider making it shorter but I may add a lining to the skirt section at some point.

To finish the seams, I trimmed and pressed the seam allowance to the side and topstitched alongside the joins to create a kind of faux flat felled seam finish.

Close up detail of the bodice section to show the faux flat felled seams

It’s not a bad fit for a first trial. I did do a mock up of a shortened version and its seemed to fit just right but its amazing what issues a little real life walk-around brings to the fore.

It transpires the back section collapses a little and could probably do with a bit more support. Maybe some interfacing would have given more structure or perhaps I need to add bones in the side and centre back seams? Or maybe I just live with it. What do you think? That said, I love how effortless it is to wear right now and I don’t particularly want to have to sit so upright in it all the time!

Back view of the dress that Janene is wearing to show that it is collapsing a little.

Needless to say, I’m not deterred. It’s so perfect to pair with espadrilles and I’m sure I’ll be donning trainers with it at some point, even flapping around in flip flops – DM’s too, probably. They’ll all go well with it, which proves its very much my kinda dress!

Janene is sitting on a log in the shade wearing her handmade dress, sunglasses and espadrilles. She is looking into the distance with her left hand on her shoulder and the other on her lap.

By the way, the fabric is called ‘Out of Print’ and if you like it as much as I do, here’s a link, but you’ll have to be quick. I don’t think theres many metres in stock.

Thank you so much to Minerva of course for gifting this lovely material as part of the Brand Ambassador programme. And also to the lovely ladies of Instagram (@sewing_in_spain, @Rocco.Sienna and @SewSarahSmith) who are hosting the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge which involves sewing a summer dress before 21st June. There are so many great entries already which have totally inspired and spurred my project along – do have a looksee! Sometimes deadlines are a good thing… Yay! I did it!!

Janene is walking towards the camera but looking to the side, holding a blade of grass. She is wearing her handmade sundress and sunglasses and espadrilles.

One more thank you to my Daniel for finding this ideal little suntrap along the river and for taking these fabulous photos.

Bombshells and Seashells

bombshell swimsuit

Try as I may I can never skip the post-holiday blues. But hey, the sky in London town today is so blue and cloudless and sunny so at least we can be gently and pleasantly eased bashell 3ck in to our daily duties. seashell

But before I stick my head into that stinky case to launder the smalls, I’d like to present a long overdue blog post. About my bombshell swimsuit. With me in it!

bombshell swimsuit in the pool

I wasn’t sure whether I’d be brave enough to do this and my nerve was duly questioned by work colleagues and family alike, but I have to say, it’s a lot easier when you’re posing on a lovely Spanish beach and not at your local city pool! And made easier still when the cozzie is so modest and flattering. If you Google Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit I hope you will agree that it is such a wickedly clever design that looks great on everyone, any size, any age. So thank you Heather Lou for your great pattern and for eliminating the usual cringe-factor from my holiday snaps!

bombshell halter swimsuit

As near as I live to, and search as I may, I could not find the right cozzie fabric in the Goldhawk Road. One or two shops tried to sell me some spandex but there wasn’t much colour choice and none of the necessary extras I needed, like swimsuit elastic and swimsuit lining. So I braved the rave of the Fabricland website. Go there if you dare (for a fab selection of lycra and spandex), but beware flashing lights and neon starbursts upon every scroll… you have been warned! That said, the service was spot on. I ordered by phone one afternoon, from a lovely, helpful lady and it was delivered the next day.

bombshell swimsuit front and back

I was busy as some bees leading up to the holiday so I had to make this cozzie in small bite-sized shifts. And I’d be lying if I said I found it a breeze. Stress head and senility probably plorange shellayed a part in the confusion but I did find it difficult following instructions for one version whilst looking at pictures for the other.

The rouching was a bit fiddly and tbh I didn’t really know what I was doing until it all came together, if you know what I mean! It’s not my greatest work. There are flaws, namely in the consistency of the zigzagging. Incidentally, unlike some other lucky sewists who breezed through with an overlocker, my vintage overlocker is of the three-thread kind that just neatens edges and doesn’t sew the seam, so I chose to use the zig zag stitch on my machine instead. This works absolutely fine but leaves the insides looking a bit rageddy. Or maybe I’m just not used to working with stretchy swimsuit garments. Gimme French seams and flat fells anytime!

shellI sewed cups into the halters. I did that just by encasing them and then with some tiny hand stitches to secure them in place. I just knew the icy waters would leave an unwelcome impression on the photos, otherwise!

bombshell swimsuit splash

I couldn’t say how long exactly this took me to make, because I did it over three or four days or more but I would guess about 5 hours. Longer than I’d anticipated. But worth it. I bought some black swimsuit fabric to make another but just didn’t get enough time to make the two. The red and white polka dot seemed more apt for a Spanish holiday in any case.  shell 3seashell

I will make another and I will make a few changes. Namely: making the elastic a bit tighter round the leg holes and adding a little bit of length to the body. I will also take more care with the topstitching, especially round the front, where it notices. And I will probably overlock the stitching after I’ve sewn the pieces together.

Dan was of course the fantastic photographer but my son took these next two which are priceless. Oh the glamour. Oh how he laughed!

bombshell swimsuit photo by Alfie

We were staying in the pretty town of Denia, just south of Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. The locals were lovely and very patient with our pigeon Spanish! It was very very peaceful. Out of season, I guess. And I really didn’t expect the weather to be so fab. 24-28 degrees mostly. It’s amazing how much better I feel for some sun on my skin… and a week of no work. Dan got up at silly o’clock most mornings to climb Mount Montogó so that he could get some pics of the sun rising over the sea. He wasn’t disappointed. For anyone who’s interested, I’ll be sure to point you to them once he has selected his favourites.

OK. I think my time is up. Thanks for visiting. Cozzie’s off. Apron’s on. Hasta la próxima, mis amigos!

Nikita’s Prom Dress

Nikita prom dress title pic

I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat and welling up with pride as I sit poised to write this post. Meet Nikita, the sister of Jessica who was the lovely recipient of my first ever hand-made prom dress.

I knew there was another one on order, a year ago. After all you can’t make for one without the other can you?!

But what joy. What an absolutely pleasure to have another opportunity to make such a special dress. I’ve learned one hellofalot in this last year. Fitting mostly. This little beauty only took two fittings. I quite forget how many Jessica’s one took! I’ve learned not to be scared of cutting into the fabric. Learned how to be honest with measurements, how to be brave with fabric choices and mostly that I CAN make a dress befitting of a princess!

Nik modelling dress by the wooden door

Up until a few weeks ago, all Nikita’s dreams of her school leavers prom were wiped out when her school declared no funds for such frivolities, after all, this year. Everyone was gutted for her. Especially knowing how hard Nik has worked throughout her last school years… despite being asleep for most of them! Normal teenage behaviour you might assume but no, unfortunately for Nikita she suffers with narcolepsy. An awful condition which means she has to take very strong medication to keep awake. Lots of things trigger a collapse. Not least of all a fit of the giggles.

I reprimanded her dad recently, for his insistence on telling jokes one after the other but Nikita assured me it was fine because his jokes were so rubbish! She has the best S.O.H. ever!

It was such a relief when her school confirmed the prom would actually go ahead. But then a little panic set in when I realised I had a couple of weeks to pull off the dress.

Nikita wearing prom dress at Fulham PalaceI think by now you have the right to safely assume that Mr Ooobop, AKA the lovely Daniel Selway has been behind the creation of these blinding photos!

Helped by a scorching summer’s day and the beautiful setting of Fulham Palace, he has blown me away once again with his amazing self-taught skills.

Nikita wears ooobop prom dress at Fulham PalaceThe dress itself is fashioned from the same materials as Jessica’s, only in stronger colours. Red Duchesse Satin and Black polka dot tulle.

The halterneck bodice section is Simplicity 3825. Inspired by Nikita’s leaning towards a Marilyn-esque dress.

simplicity 3823 sewing pattern

I’ve had this pattern in my collection for some time and I’m so glad it came into good use.

I basted a layer of the dotted tulle over the bodice pieces and treated them as one for the outer pieces. Inside the bodice is self lined with the red satin. Its a good medium weight and gave the dress some necessary structure whilst not losing out to optimum swishy drape for the skirt.

Oh just look how divine her smile is!

By the fountain at Fulham Palace

The skirt is a full circle, of course. One can’t pose over street vents if the skirt doesn’t rise above one’s head! But actually a more demure pose was to be found next to a water fountain in the grounds of Fulham Palace!

Nikita sitting by the fountain in her prom dress

And lest I forget! There are the now signatory and obligatory 10 metres of soft-as-you-like dotted tulle that adorn said circle skirt. And no tears this time. I knew what to expect. I knew to pin section by section and I knew to baste… and to breathe!

walking barefoot in Fulham Palace gardens

walking away, barefoot

The back of the dress is genius in design. It has a wonderful elasticated panel which keeps the bodice fitted nice and snug with no gapes. I just love the effect that is created with the gathered netting over the liquid shiny satin.

back of prom dress bodice

 

ooobop prom dress in the parkI can honestly say that this dress is testament to everything I love about sewing. Not only about what I get out of the whole deal but what everyone else gets too. Nikita loved her dress and I feel so honoured to have made an original number for her. Mummy Tina was delighted to see her daughter have the best time in her new dress, Daddy Tim was very happy that I’d fulfilled the brief of a ‘modest’ dress and we are all so happy with Daniel’s outstanding photos.

Nikita will do well with whatever she choses to do. Of that I am sure. Nothing is going to hold this little lady back!

prom dress front

In the apple orchardAnd the talents didn’t stop there, oh no. Nikita’s lovely sister Jessica did such an amazing job of her make up for the prom and also today before the shoot. I’m so miffed I missed out on todays events. Slogging away in an icy office when I could have been out on location with the dream team in Fulham Palace!

Jessica doing Niks make up

So thank you girlies, for making a crazy sewing lady so happy and thank you Daniel for making my blog so pretty and thank you lovely readers for making it all worth it.

Portrait of Nikita